NYPD Can Use Cold War-era Response for Records Request, Judge Rules

New York’s highest court ruled Thursday that the New York Police Department can decline to acknowledge whether it has records of investigating two Muslim men in response to the individuals’ public-records request.

The ruling gives the NYPD a Cold War-era tool to shield information from the public determined to be sensitive, disappointing some lawyers and others who said the court’s decision would hurt efforts to hold the police accountable.

At issue in the case, handed down by the New York Court of Appeals, was whether the NYPD could respond to a Freedom of Information Law, or Foil, request with an answer that has been used for decades by law enforcement to shield information from the public. 

In October 2012, Talib Abdur-Rashid, an imam in New York City, and Samir Hashmi, a student at Rutgers University, submitted requests to the NYPD seeking documents showing whether the police previously investigated or surveilled them or their affiliated organizations, according to court documents. This came after the NYPD’s alleged surveillance of Muslim communities in the years following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The NYPD has settled lawsuits related to the allegations without admitting wrongdoing. Read more…